Self-deprecated humor is a shield most comedians use to fight their insecurities and anxieties. They learn how to laugh at themselves to raise their confidence. Like them, we all have insecurities that will harm our performance if we don’t find a way to deal with them.
Why are we so scared when stepping up a stage? Because we don’t want to fail, we want our performance to be perfect. Failure seems like an open door to judgment, criticism, and ultimately, humiliation.
Public speaking is so intimidating because we fear judgment and every consequence that can come from it. You don’t want to be apart from the group. That’s scary.
However, there is something you may not realize – the worst judgment, the most ruthless one, is your own. Therefore, your audience will not notice many of your “failures.” Keep that in mind all the time.
It is okay to be “not good”
That said, it is okay not to be good at public speaking. You must learn it! Remember your first piano lesson? Or football? Or dance? How good were you? How much did you improve?
No one is naturally good at something, despite the popular myths about talent. You must practice. So, you must permit yourself to be “not that good”; it’s the first step towards a good speaker. It is gratifying to realize our growth and development – you shouldn’t fear it.
Struggling to get to the level of expertise you want shouldn’t be a problem. However, your expectations about it may be.
The need for control
Everyone needs a certain level of control over their lives. Feeling that you’re in control helps you to feel confident. However, eventually, the day will come when you need to take some risks.
Public speaking is an activity that tests your need for control. By preparing intensely, you can trick your brain into believing that you’re in control. However, your audience is always in control. All you can do is prepare for anything they throw at you.
This need for control can escalate to an almost pathological level, generating anxiety, fear, and frustration. So, take a breath. It is time to get loose.
Let’s be bad
It is the expectations and the anticipation of what may happen that makes you anxious and scared. You want things to happen in a certain way, and you fear they won’t. Unfortunately, most of the time is precisely that fear that makes them go wrong.
By allowing yourself to be bad, you’re freeing yourself from pressure, letting your natural instincts kick in. Your natural instincts are a great ally because they know what to do without overthinking. For example, your body knows how to move without you thinking about it or even acknowledging that you’re doing something or moving a certain way. Yet, when you’re too nervous, it gets rigid, and all your movements (if you do any) are unnatural.
Acceptance. This is the secret to deal with all insecurities, public speaking included. People who accept positive and negative emotions tend to be happier, more proactive, and less anxious. So, accept you may not be that good.
Most studies reveal that in most cases, your skills instead of your mental state determine how good (or not) you will be in your presentation. So free yourself from fear, and you will, most likely, be okay.
Cátia is a psychologist who is passionate about helping children develop and train social skills.